Monday, July 31, 2006

Completed transcript

The completed transcript of Melvin Lipman's talk at the Humanist Community of Central Ohio's event on Saturday can be found here.

Here are some books on Humanism. If you have a book to recommend, let me know and I will add it to the links here.

Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Humanism by Paul Kurtz
Freedom of Choice Affirmed by Corliss Lamont
The Humanist Alternative: Some Definitions of Humanism by Paul Kurtz
Humanism, What's That?: A Book for Curious Kids by Helen Bennett
Life, Sex and Ideas: The Good Life Without God by A C Grayling
Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby
Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects by Bertrand Russell
Yes To Life Memoirs of Corliss Lamont by Corliss Lamont

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From the Q and A: Lack of media coverage

Crossposted at My Left Wing, Booman Tribune, and Daily Kos

Question from the audience: I asked myself driving here today, why am I going to this meeting? I've been a Humanist probably for 10 years, and my concern is, no one knows about this organization. If this article hadn't appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on Friday--and I had another appointment this afternoon, but I gave that up to come here, because I'm really concerned about this organization from the standpoint, nobody knows about it! Now, we've got a fallout from churches that is enormous. We don't realize how many people don't go every Sunday, because it's not measured. I've measured it in my community, and I know about where that is (but I've been in marketing all my life, and I can do some of those things.)

Now, how do we get the word out. Well, why in the world, if this organization has been in business now for years, in the Faith and Values section of the Columbus Dispatch, where your article was--why don't we have every week have a column in there? Why isn't somebody contributing on the local level? Because, unless you do that, this national level is all beautiful and everything--fight the big fight--but that's not where your effectiveness of this organization is going to be. It's local politics that's important, and it always has been. This is an organization that has tremendous merit, and there's a lot of opportunity out there for recruitment.

Amy Birtcher, President of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio: I appreciate your comment about not knowing about our group. That's one of the reasons we were so excited to have Mr. Lipman come this summer, so that we could sort of "use him" if you will (laughter) as a way of promoting our group as well. We have been in the community, we've been a chapter of AHA since 1979, and we do advertise monthly. All of our meetings, which are public, are advertised in all of the local newspapers, in the datebook columns, on the lists of calendar events and so forth. We also have members who actively write to the newspaper, and list the Humanist Community of Central Ohio as their affiliation.

One of the things that I would urge some of you to do, since you mentioned the lack of publicity or lack of knowledge about us, is to contact Mark Fisher. Mark Fisher (mfisher at is the editor of the Faith and Values section of the Columbus Dispatch. And I have made myself known to him on a couple of different occasions, I've given him my contact information, I've expressed to him a desire to have a voice in the Faith and Values section of the newspaper, and he's not been very responsive to that so far. If members of the community would contact him, or contact other editors or writers of in religious section, and ask for information about Humanism, and ask for there to be more focus on this aspect of our community, maybe they would be more responsive.

Melvin Lipman: Just to add to what Amy said about getting in the papers, it's difficult. A lot of papers just don't want to give us room. And that's the reason I'm traveling 30 to 40 weekends a year to different locations, because, for some resaon, when a national figure comes in, they feel, maybe we'll get the publicity. And once you get in, it's easier to continue to get in to the papers.

Amy Birthcher: Can I make one more statement real quick? We had a press conference yesterday for Mr. Lipman, and I sent out about 29 press packets. I contacted 21 newspapers in the greater metropolitan area, I contacted the four major T.V. stations, four radio stations, and invited them to come to this press conference. No one came. (Wow.)

Melvin Lipman: I was telling Amy that the record that we've had on press conferences around the country is two. The average is about 1/4.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Asserting our Humanism, by Melvin Lipman, Part 4

There's a quote attributable to the Jesuits that says, "Give me a child at an impressionable age, and he's mine for life." What about children of Humanists? How do we nurture *their* beliefs the way the churches do? Humanist parents often feel defensive when asked, "What religion do you raise your children in?" The questions themselves offend me. Do we ask every Christian or Jew or Muslim, "What do you teach your kids?" Are *we* expected to raise our children to follow some religion that we, ourselves reject?

Of course not. We must respond to religionists who ask "What do you teach your kids?" by making it clear that we are *not* "believers in nothing". And that we have lots of Humanist values and Humanist ethics to teach our children. It's important that Humanist parents give attention to the issues that religion concerns itself with. Things like morality and ethics, and interrelating with others. If we don't answer our children's questions about the world, and the way it works--the mystery, the injustice--if we don't have these conversations, nothing else will do the job except maybe the supernatural religions.

I'm looking forward mostly to the questions, so let me finish with a quote from Howard Zinn. He said, "Throughout history, people have felt powerless before authority, but that at certain times these powerless people, by organizing, acting, risking, persisting, have created enough power to change the world around them, even if a little. That is the history of the labor movement, the women's movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, the disabled persons’ movement, the gay and lesbian movement, the movement of Black people in the South."

And I'm hopeful that will also be the history of the Humanist movement.

Humanist Community of Central Ohio
American Humanist Association
The Secular Coalition for America
Some Humanist-themed items at Cafe Press

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Melvin Lipman, Part 3

So, we've come out. What now? How can we be most effective? Well first, by supporting our national, nontheist organizations, so that we can speak with an organized voice. There are enough national organizations in this country to suit everyone's tastes. I proudly belong to every one of those national organizations. And the next step is to get our national organizations to cooperate with each other. The Christian Coalition did it, while each member organization maintained its own identity--why can't our organizations do the same thing?

Last year, five national organizations combined their efforts, and formed the Secular Coalition for America. Two other organizations have since joined the coalition. There are now seven organizations that make up the Secular Coalition. By combining our efforts, the Coalition now has the first lobbyist in Washington D.C. whose lobbying efforts are devoted exclusively to protecting the rights of secularists.

The American Humanist Association has provided office space for that lobbyist, and her staff of one. And in addition to her contacts with Congress, she's received national coverage by a feature story in U.S.A. Today, several major newspapers, appearances on Tucker Carlson's show and the O'Reilly Show, and numerous other appearances on radio, T.V., newspapers.

Each one of those appearances has resulted in individual humanists coming out and joining our fight, to prevent our country from becoming a theocracy. To start paying attention to the dangers to our planet, and to its people in this life, and not in some imaginary afterlife.

Turning to another issue, ask most people if they would vote for an Atheist. Again, the response would be a proud "No!" And the responder doesn't even think she is bigoted. But anyone would think it's bigoted if we said we wouldn't vote for somebody because he's a Muslim, or because he's gay, but very proudly they'll say "I would never vote for an Atheist."

I don't think in the near future we'll completely remove religion from our government, or even be able to elect an Atheist president, or even to Congress. Although there may be some elected officials who have not yet come out of the closet, I am unaware of any known Atheist who has been a successful candidate for any national public office in this country. We need more public exposure. We need to run for public office. And while not pushing our beliefs, we must not hide them if the question arises.

Al Smith's defeat for the United States presidency in 1928 because he was Catholic, paved the way for another Catholic, John F. Kennedy, to be successful 32 years later. We need an articulate, reasonable, national candidate to bring the issue of religious tolerance into the discussion. We need to stop debating among ourselves as to who's a "real Humanist", or Atheist, or Freethinker, or whatever.

We need to spend less time attacking religion generally, and devote our attention to those aspects of organized religion that impact negatively on us. I'm really not interested in convincing my neighbor that he's stupid for praying to an imaginary man in the sky, as long as my neighbor does not interfere with my right to my beliefs. As long as my neighbor does not insiston making me or my children listen to his or her prayers in school or in public meetings. That is where our concerns should be directed.

Let's devote our energies to eliminating the perception in this country that morality is related to supernatural beliefs, and that you can't have one without the other. Let's encourage our young people to be as proud of their beliefs as are the religionists.

This encouragement will not come from attacking religion, but from talking about our *own* philosophy of life. Let's talk more about the joy we have living a life free of superstition. A life where we can think for ourselves, where we know that bad things do not happen to us because we are bad, or because we are being punished. A life where we can accept and understand the concept, "Shit happens!" (Laughter) And yet go on living optimistically about the future.

As Humanists, we are not immoral, and we are not intellectual snobs. We are happy people living complete lives, and doing what we can to ensure the survival of our species. We are mature enough to accept our lives. We are mature enough to accept the reality of our existence without perpetuating imaginary childhood fantasies. We are grownups who no longer believe in Tooth Fairies, or Santa Claus, or imaginary friends, or imaginary gods.

But, we will never get religion to disappear. Religions will always exist, because it's the only way some people will choose to cope with life. But the degree of radical fundamentalism that we are seeing today *will* diminish as our society changes. And radical attacks on religion in general will only polarize and create more fundamentalism. I can coexist with liberal and even moderate religionists. It's the fundamentalists that concern me. Recognizing the existence of religion does not mean accepting irrational beliefs. It does not mean that we must refrain from ever being critical of irrationalism.

It's okay to attack political beliefs, economic beliefs, we have book critics, movie critics. While all beliefs can be criticized, it's still considered socially incorrect to criticize religious beliefs. It's ironic that we live in a Democratic society where ideas are constantly and vigorously discussed openly, yet we are afraid of offending others by discussing religion.

Being critical of others' beliefs should not be the defining characteristic of Humanism. Rather than being overly involved in attacking other beliefs, we should be more evangelical in spreading the word about the overwhelming joy and comfort that we can derive from our naturalistic life stance.

Every religion has its own assurance of reward, rewards either in this life or in some imaginary future life. Christianity promises eternal life in heaven, Buddhism offers the blissful state of nirvana, New Age religions promise inner peace and union with God as well as power over external events, Islam offers 72 virgins in the afterlife...every religion has its big, big promise. Humanists need to offer our own promises, rather than devoting most of our energies attacking the promises of other groups. Let's take the spotlight off the supernatural religions, and focus the spotlight on what Humanism has to offer.

Humanism is much more than the default condition that prevails when no brainwashing has occurred. The big promise of Humanism is the good life, here and now. Edwin H. Wilson summed it up when he wrote,

The Humanist lives as if this world were all and enough. He is not otherworldly. He holds that the time spent on the contemplation of a possible afterlife is time wasted. He fears no hell and seeks no heaven, save that which he and others created on earth. He willingly accepts the world that exists on this side of the grave as the place for moral struggle and creative living. He seeks the life abundant for his neighbour as for himself. He is content to live one world at a time and let the next life - if such there may be - take care of itself. He need not deny immortality; he simply is not interested. His interests are here.
While the religionists make claims that noone has ever proved, our claims are real. Our claims and our promises have been proven over and over and over.

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Bumper Sticker Intermission

From Melvin Lipman's talk:

We tend to live our lives separate from our Humanist identity, while others, literally, wear their identification on their sleeve or around their necks, or on the bumpers of their cars.

I'll be transcribing and posting more of his talk in a bit, but speaking of things to put on the bumper of your car, you can find some below.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Asserting our Humanism, by Melvin Lipman, cont'd

In 25 years, the Christian right has gone from their self-described "Silent Majority" to the "Moral Majority", and today, to the "Embattled Christians".

Singer and songwriter Holly Neer said it quite well. She wrote a song called, "I Ain't Afraid". And, part of the lyrics of that song are, "I ain't afraid of your Yahweh, I ain't afraid of your Allah, I ain't afraid of your Jesus, I'm afraid of what you do in the name of your god.

I'm not afraid of religion, I'm afraid of what people are doing in the name of their religions. The intent to completely break down the wall of separation between religion and government, has made anti-Humanist discrimination fashionable, with Humanists being depicted as without values and less than patriotic.

I mentioned the University of Minnesota study that was released this past March. It concluded that acceptance of religious diversity does not extend to those who do not believe in a God. When 2000 American households were sampled and asked which minority group shared their values of American society, Atheists were ranked below every other minority group. Atheists were associated with all kinds of immorality and criminality. Though today, Atheists--at least those that acknowledge they're Atheists--and they're unorganized as a group. They are seen as a major threat to the American way of life. Of the total U.S. poplulation of about 300 million, as I said earlier, it's estimated that about 30 million do not identify with any supernatural God. A conservative, which is that 30 million, is more than the Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and any individual Protestant sect, combined.

So, we are a large group. But, if those 30 million remain in their closets, we have no voice. We need to raise the level of awareness, and the level of acceptance, of non-supernaturalists. We need to make the public aware that we're not devils, that we can be nice, kind, ethical people. How many of your neighbors know that you're Humanists? Probably very few--it's a topic that we try to avoid. We tend to live our lives separate from our Humanist identity, while others, literally, wear their identification on their sleeve or around their necks, or on the bumpers of their cars.

How many friends and associates, acquaintances, coworkers, know of your Humanism? That could be the reason we think we're so few--we simply don't know each other. If we are to be known, and to have a positive influence on our culture (and I shouldn't have to explain the need for that) we must identify ourselves. Not be ashamed of our beliefs.

For too long we've allowed our nation's leaders to ignore, or even actively oppose, the interests of Humanists. We're a growing constituency, and we have a right to the same respectful attention legislators give to other citizens, and now, with one voice, we can insist that it be delievered. If humanists are open about their beliefs, we can soon be as strong and powerful minority. But if we choose to remain in our closets, we'll soon find that the closet door is sealed shut, so that we cannot get out.

More to come.

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Asserting our Humanism, a talk by Melvin Lipman

The American Humanist Association is the largest and the oldest Humanist organization in the United States. We have 114 chapters and affiliates in 46 different states, plus Washington D.C. The purpose of the American Humanist Association is to promote the awareness of Humanism.

Why do we need to promote the awareness of Humanism? A recent study was published in March of this year by the University of Minnesota, which showed that Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics--we're all in the same boat--are the most despised minority in the United States. Most of the public feels that it's terrible to say that "I won't vote for" someone because it's a woman, because they're gay, because they're Black, but more than 50% of the population in this country feels it's very proper to say "I won't vote for an Atheist." We need to make the public aware that we're your next-door neighbors, that we don't have horns, (laughter) that we're not evil people. And that's one of the major functions of the American Humanist Association, to address that issue.

We advise our members through action alerts periodically--at least one every week, press releases, whenever any national news comes of interest to Humanists. We monitor the legislation that's taking place in Congress. We have our own Humanist Legal Center, where we would actually file suits or file briefs to support law suits that protect church-state issues that we're involved in.

That's just a general idea of who we are, and I'll be glad to talk to anybody and let you know how to join if you'd like to.

Today my talk was entitled Asserting Our Humanism. What does that mean? Well, comedian Paula Poundstone says "Being an Evangelical Atheist doesn't mean knocking on doors and yelling 'There is no Word!'" (laughter) So how do we assert our Humanism? Well, the first sentence in the Humanist Manifesto provides a succinct description of Humanism--it gives what we call an "elevator answer" to the question "What is Humanism?" Elevator answers are if you get in an elevator and somebody sees your pin and says 'What is it?' You say 'That's the Humanist symbol.' Well, what's a Humanist? And all you have is 14 floors down to explain what a Humanist is--where I could spend 7 hours and still not sufficiently explain it.

But the brief description would be that first sentence in our Humanist Manifesto. And what it says is "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity."

Now that's a pretty big sentence. What it stresses is, first, the responsibility of every Humanist is to live a life of personal fulfillment. How do we get that fulfillment? Through our social responsibility, our lives aspire for the greater good of humanity. That's what Humanists are all about.

The key words that distinguishes us from other social-minded philosophies are the two words "without supernaturalism". And that's what keeps us apart from many other social-minded groups. Humanism does not rely on or accept any supernatural interpretation of reality.

So, what does that mean in our culture today? Well, we know we live in a supernatural culture--one in which "believing" has become more important than what you believe in. One in which clergy and parishioners alike claim personal knowledge of the unknown. The Humanist view questions and wonders how one can know the unknown. The Humanist view does not include revelations interpreted according to the aims and whims of a chosen few--an authoritarian clergy. A clergy that allow religious and political dogmas to trump science and reason, that makes it acceptable to allow our president to continue to deny effective stem cell research. That makes it acceptable for this country to refuse to distribute condoms to fight AIDS in Africa. That makes it acceptable for some Ohio School Board members to even consider changing teaching standards by labeling as controversial such scientific facts as evolution, as global warming, stem cell research.

Reason and science are not trumped by the Humanist view. In the Humanist view, reason would dominate the public square, science would be respected in national policy and debate.

When the 1990 National Survey of Religious Identification--and that's a survey conducted by City University of New York. They conducted a survey in 1990, and another one in 2001. And in comparing those surveys, we find that the number of adults who identify with no religion more than doubled between those two surveys. U.S. population increased by only 18%, but there was a 100% increase in the number of people who identify with no religion.

But when we say "no religion", that might mean they still believe in a supernatural supreme being, they just don't follow any particular religion. Further studies and further questions have indicated that the percentage of people in this country who don't believe in any supreme being, have ranged from 8 to as high as 20%. I like to use the figure 10%--generally a conservative figure of the number of Humanists, or Atheists, or Freethinkers, or whatever else they're called. So I would estimate, 10%, the population of the United States is 300 million, therefore there'd be about 30 million of us in this country.

Until about 20 years ago, it was sufficient just to keep our beliefs or our nonbelief to ourselves. It was nobody's business what we believed. But times have changed, and today we're in a position where it is essential that we assert our Humanist values.

Timothy LaHaye--anybody ever hear of Timothy LaHaye? (Some laughter) The author of the Christian fundamentalist Left Behind series, was on the Jerry Falwell show about six months ago, and he said, "We're in a religious war and we need to aggressively oppose secular humanism; these people are as religiously motivated as we are and they are filled with the devil."

Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist at a meeting of the theocratic Family Research Council in March of this year, spoke about the "war on secular society", and he said, "We need to find ways to win the war." And so, it's a war against us, and we need to fight back in this war.

Another Bush administration adviser Paul Weyrich said, "The real enemy is the secular humanist mindset, which seeks to destroy everything that is good in this society." It's nice to know that we're so powerful. (Laughter)

In 2003, speaking to the Christian Coalition, Alabama Governor Bob Riley, spoke about a "more important war than the war in Iraq". He said the war against secular humanists is "a war for the absolute soul of this country". He called for a "crusade" to restore the Christian character of America.

Well, friends, I think we should be prepared for a crusade. It's creeping up slowly. It's like the analogy of the frog in water, you've probably heard, that if you put a frog in lukewarm water, the frog will just sit there. And then you start turning up the heat little by little until it starts to boil, and it's too late. The frog is unconscious and can't jump out.

Changes are not made all at once. We're not going to have a government that takes away our rights not to believe all at once. But we've got to see the signs. We've got to see what is happening, and we have to be prepared to defend ourselves.

Last year, after a close Senate vote to approve her nomination to the Federal Court of Appeals, and she was approved, California Justice Janice Rogers Brown said that people of faith were in a war--they keep using that term *war*. She said they're in a war against secular humanists, who threaten to divorce America from its religious roots. Brown complained that America has moved away from the religious tradition on which it is founded, and to which we need to get back.

In June 2002, responding the the 9th Circuit's courageous decision concerning the Pledge of Allegiance, George Bush, the second, our president, said "I will only appoint judges who know their rights come from God." Now Article VI of the United States Constitution specifically prohibits the use of any religious test for any public office. But I guess *our* president can legitmately claim complete ignorance of the Constitution as an excuse. (Laughter).

Stay tuned for more...

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Being an atheist in America

Crossposted at Daily Kos

This is going to be a quick post, because I need to get to my Saturday morning water aerobics class, but I wanted to at least start this discussion. I'll have time for some reflections of my own in the comments a little later. But since I am attending this event this afternoon, I wanted to bring up the topic early in the day, in case someone posts something that would be good to bring up at this afternoon's event.

Humanist leader to speak here

"We feel now more than ever there’s a need to assert ourselves to stop this creeping theocracy from taking place, to let the public know that religion has no monopoly on morality," the president of the American Humanist Association said.

Lipman, the 69-year-old leader of the country’s largest humanist group, will be in Columbus this weekend for several events, sponsored by the Humanist Community of Central Ohio.

Humanists are atheists, he said, but they feel a responsibility to lead ethical lives for the good of society.

While polls show that millions of Americans don’t believe in God, Lipman said public officials ignore them because they are afraid to speak out.

"When you speak to anybody, it’s politically incorrect to be anti-gay, it’s politically incorrect to be a racist. . . . But it’s perfectly OK to say, ‘I hate atheists,’ " he said.
I don't know that it's perfectly okay to say you "hate" anyone--most Americans, in my experience, anyway, are uncomfortable with people actually *saying* that word--but I do think he has a point that prejudice against atheists is a more "acceptable" prejudice to many Americans. My quick thought on this is that when someone identifies as an atheist, people tend to see that as a rejection of something that is an important foundation they have build their lives around. It feels threatening.

What are other people's thoughts about this?

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Thursday, July 27, 2006


Via Father Jake Stops the World

On July 29, 389 bloggers will post every 30 minutes for 24 hours, while also raising money through pledges for the charity of their choice. So far they've already have over $54,000 in pledges.

Among the participants of the Sixth Annual Blogathon is a regular visitor and commenter here at Jake's place, ePiscoSours:


Yep, on July 29, I will be posting every 30 minutes for 24 hours. My charity will be Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, which aims to eliminate extreme poverty in the world. I’ll give you 48 more or less quality posts (suggestions will always be welcome), and in return, you commit to helping heal the world.

Such a deal!

And no, you don’t have to be Episcopalian or even Christian to give to EGR, just have a sincere desire to end global poverty. See you on the 29th!

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Right's Values Agenda

A press release by Bob Shemansky. The date on it is July 19, but I haven't opened my e-mail for a few days. It's been a crazy week. -Renee

While we balance on the brink of yet another conflict in the Middle East, the Bush Administration would rather talk about gay marriage. As oil prices skyrocket ever higher, the Republican Party wants to talk about flag burning. Instead of dealing with the increasingly deadly war in Iraq, the Republican Congress wants to take on the burning issue of how we say the pledge of allegiance.

Today President Bush vetoed a bill that would expand stem cell research. This will happen, despite calls for passage from Senators Bill Frist (R-TN) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), two men who are hardly known for being “liberals” or, for that matter, even voices of moderation. One of the most honored and respected voices in the Republican Party, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, who watched her husband fall victim to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, this week issued a statement saying, "Time is short, and life is precious, and I hope this promising research can now move forward." But these pleas for reason have fallen on deaf ears. The President, for the first time in his 5 ½ years in office, has used his veto power not to stop runaway budget deficits or halt multi-billion dollar pork-barrel projects, but to stop a bill that would expand life saving research.

Later this week and into the fall, House Republicans will again debate a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. They will do so despite the fact that it has already failed in the Senate. So what is their rationale? According to Representative Phil Gringrey (R- GA), this bill ---and I’m not making this up --- “is perhaps the best message we can give to the Middle East and all the trouble they’re having over there right now.”

Think about that for a moment. The “best message” we can give to the Middle East is that the American Congress wants to bash homosexuals yet again, insert itself into the private lives of this nation’s citizens, and negate the authority states have historically had to regulate the institution of marriage. Yep, that will certainly defuse the crisis in Lebanon and hasten the end of the Iraqi civil war so we can finally bring our brave troops home.

In truth we all know what these hot button issues bills are about. They are not about doing anything constructive on the great issues of the day. They are about politics, pure and simple. The Gay Marriage Ban and bills like it are being trotted out because 2006 is an election year, and since Republicans can’t talk about anything on which they have been successful; since they can’t talk about how they’ve united us, they will talk about things designed to divide us even further.

Personally, I believe the voters are smarter than that. I think they’ll see through these smokescreens. And come election day ---in the immortal words of The Who ---I think the voters will make it clear that they “won’t be fooled again.”

Bob Shamansky is a lifelong Central Ohio resident, lawyer, and local businessman. He served as a Special Agent in the United States Army’s Counter Intelligence Corp during the Korean War, and as a Member of Congress representing Ohio's 12th Congressional District from 1981-1983. He is facing Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Genoa Twp.) as the Democratic nominee in the 12th Congressional District.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Katharine Jefferts Schori on CBS Evening News

She was supposed to be on CBS Evening News last Sunday, but was pre-empted for "breaking news". Just as well, I guess, as I was on the road and had no way of recording it. I've transcribed it below, missing only the very beginning (as in, the first few words) of the segment.

Russ Mitchell: ...knew that she would be flying into a sea of controversy. But this part-time pilot, who flies a single-engine Cessna into the outlying parishes of her Nevada diocese, believes she'll be able to prevent a threatened huge split in her church.

What do you say to people who don't think that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church should condone homosexuality and same-sex marriages?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, my sense is that Jesus invited everybody to the table, to the "great feast", and for us to say that some people are not fit to come to that feast is not our task.

Russ Mitchell It was the ordaination of women as priests which first angered a number of diocese. They threatened to split from the main church when three years ago an openly gay priest was elected as Bishop of New Hampshire.

Since your election, a number of diocese have come out and been critical. This one from a leader in Springfield, Illinois. He thinks the Episcopal church is in meltdown. "The lowest ebb of our beloved and beleaguered church since perhaps the Civil War if not the American Revolution." When you hear stuff like that, what goes through your head?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: It's predictable. People that have been unhappy over the course of the church's direction over the last couple of decades. This is another piece that may offend some--it tells them that change is happening whether they are intereseted in that change or not.

Russ Mitchell The Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican community. But many Anglicans overseas feel that Episcopalians in America have gone too far down the liberal road.

Do you care what other Anglican churches think?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Absolutly, absolutely--and I think our most recent General Convention was very clear about the fact that we are very concerned about our membership in the Anglican Communion and our relationships with other parts of the Anglican Communion.

Russ Mitchell: How much of this opposition do you think is coming from that fact that you're a woman?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think that's a significant piece of it. I think that a number of the changes in attitude in the church over the last century have offended old ways of understanding who should be in charge. Is it a white male who will rule in the church, or is it not?

Russ Mitchell: You're a pilot--

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Mm-hmm.

Russ Mitchell: What's so special to you about being up in that airplane, in the pilot's seat?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Ahh...there's a wonderful poem that was written in the 2nd World War by a fellow named McGee that's called "High Flight", and he talks about the experience of being aloft as a religious--spiritual encounter. And there is certainly an element of that. It gives one a very different perspective on the world. It gives one a larger view.

Russ Mitchell: When we were waiting for you outside, someone walked by and we told them what we were doing here, and they said, "Oh! She's a star!"

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Oh, help!

Russ Mitchell: How are you dealing with that part of this?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I'm a human being. I am simply doing what I've been called to do.

Russ Mitchell: The applause must come as a welcome sound to Bishop Jefferts Schori, but she acknowledges, many battles lie ahead.

At the end of your term in nine years, how will you measure your success?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, I would hope to see a church that is less focussed on internal division, and far more focussed on changing the world around us--transforming the communities in which we live.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Attraction and Christian Marriage

Interesting post at Salt, especially given how much certain "Christian" groups worry about keeping "man-woman marriage" as the only sort of union allowed legal status...

Romance, Attraction and its irrelevance to Christianity

Reasserters - those who elevate the 1st century view about the primary utility of genital sex – make a few assumptions about romance and attraction, I think. I’d like to examine a few.

A theology that emphasizes genital difference or prioritizes it as crucial to human nature is not distinctively Christian. Paganism places fertility, fecundity, and gendered sexuality as central to the human, and earthly, experience. Isis and Osiris, Sati and Shiva, Hera and Zeus – not to mention those of Babylonian origin – all demonstrate that genital difference is easily divinized.

Attraction and desire are not necessarily holy. If anything, Christians should steer clear of elevating the experience of attraction as being particularly holy. Romance, however, is easily elevated in the culture, and can be found in the way straight people spend on weddings. But a Christian marriage, if it is to be accurate, admits that "attraction" cannot be the crucial part of a marriage. Important? Perhaps. But not all important things are distinctively Christian.

Of course, once we argue that attraction is not crucial to marriage, we further undermine the genitalization of sexuality, because the reason why we intuitively know that particular men and women "fit" is because they are, largely, attracted to each other. Otherwise we would say that any man could marry any woman and it would be holy. Such a belief would be wrong because it undermines the particularity by which God is involved in any relationship.

Read the rest here.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

The problem with Dobson

When I posted about "Dogs don't moo" at Democratic Underground, Democrats_Win shared a pertinent detail that makes the web site make a little more sense--explaining that it is in response to pro-gay campaign ad.

The campaign’s star is a puppy named Norman who says “moo” instead of “woof.” Campaign organizers said Norman’s story is a metaphor for gay people.” The Springs are seen nationally as a battleground of social issues,” said Bobby Rauzon, a spokesman for the ad campaign, the Gazette reported. The ads will appear only in Colorado Springs, home to Focus on the Family, an anti-gay conservative Christian group. The idea is to stimulate discussion, said Mary Lou Makepeace, director of the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, which is based in Colorado Springs and funded by the Gill Foundation.

Here's the link to the pro-gay commercial. It may be slow loading but it is neat:

It is a neat ad. But with this new information, I find the ad even more troubling. It fits a larger pattern that I have seen in people like Dobson--if your very existence flies in the face of the world as they want to see it, you are perceived as a threat. You must be dismissed or explained away. You are disposable.

I've written about this before, and this seems like a good time to revisit these issues...

I have some pretty strong feelings about Dobson and his kind of Christianity, but before I'd ever heard of his religious views, I had been put off by his views on parenting.

I first heard about James Dobson when my kids were younger. Actually, on a particularly challenging outing to the grocery store, a smiling woman in front of me in line handed me a small piece of paper with a book suggestion for me: The New Dare to Discipline by Dr. James Dobson. At that point, I knew enough about Dobson to know that this was her way of saying, "Those kids need to be smacked more often!" I am convinced that our nation's overreliance on punitive "teaching" methods is a big part of our problem...but I will need to address that issue in more detail at another time.

There is, by the way, also a "Christian parenting expert" with a very different approach. Click here to see how Dr. William Sears answers questions related to discipline.)

Dobson has written a book specifically addressing how to parent a "strong-willed child", and in it he uses the example of the way he dealt with his dachshund's "willful" behavior.

Please don't misunderstand me. Siggie is a member of our family and we love him dearly. And despite his anarchistic nature, I have finally taught him to obey a few simple commands. However, we had some classic battles before he reluctantly yielded to my authority.

"The greatest confrontation occurred a few years ago when I had been in Miami for a three-day conference. I returned to observe that Siggie had become boss of the house while I was gone. But I didn't realize until later that evening just how strongly he felt about his new position as Captain.

"At eleven o'clock that night, I told Siggie to go get into his bed, which is a permanent enclosure in the family room. For six years I had given him that order at the end of each day, and for six years Siggie had obeyed.

"On this occasion, however, he refused to budge. You see, he was in the bathroom, seated comfortably on the furry lid of the toilet seat. That is his favorite spot in the house, because it allows him to bask in the warmth of a nearby electric heater..."

"When I told Sigmund to leave his warm seat and go to bed, he flattened his ears and slowly turned his head toward me. He deliberately braced himself by placing one paw on the edge of the furry lid, then hunched his shoulders, raised his lips to reveal the molars on both sides, and uttered his most threatening growl. That was Siggie's way of saying. "Get lost!"

"I had seen this defiant mood before, and knew there was only one way to deal with it. The ONLY way to make Siggie obey is to threaten him with destruction. Nothing else works. I turned and went to my closet and got a small belt to help me 'reason' with Mr. Freud."

Nice. I don't know of any dog behavior experts who recommend the belt method. Go here and click "Aversives for Dogs" for a PDF listing more humane suggestions. Neither is physical punishment recommended for improving the behavior of children--sure, you will find some, like Dobson, who maintain that it's a good idea. Me? I think I'll listen to the American Academy of Pediatrics before I take his advice.

I find Dobson's advice especially troubling because I am the parent of a "strong willed child". It is my belief, both from my experience with my child and what I've read about children with similar characteristics, that Dobson's approach would be counterproductive.

Dobson advocates the spanking of children from 15-18 months to eight years old. According to Dobson, "pain is a marvelous purifier" especially for rebellious children. (Dare to Discipline, p.6) He does not advocate harsh spanking, "it is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely." (Ibid., p.7.)

In The Strong-Willed Child (p.73), Dobson writes: "Some strong-willed children absolutely demand to be spanked, and their wishes should be granted." To help determine the amount of punishment, he suggests that "two or three stinging strokes on the legs or buttocks with a switch are usually sufficient to emphasize the point, 'You must obey me.'" (The Strong-Willed Child, pp. 53-4.)

Dobson suggests that by correctly portraying authority to a child, the child will understand how to interact with other authority figures. "By learning to yield to the loving authority...of his parents, a child learns to submit to other forms of authority which will confront him later in his life -- his teachers, school principal, police, neighbors and employers." (The Strong-Willed Child, p. 235.)

Dobson stresses that parents must uphold their authority and do so consistently, "When you are defiantly challenged, win decisively." (Dare to Discipline, p. 36.)

For some kids, this is a recipe for escalation of the problem. Ross Green's concept of the explosive child was very helpful for me in understanding kids like this. And Gordon Neufeld's concept of counterwill affirmed something that I had already suspected. What appears to be "willful behavior" in fact, it reflects an absence of a well integrated self and "will" as well as an environmental experience of being overrun by someone else's will.

Kids like this need help learning self-control, coping skills, shifting gears. A while back I watched a video featuring Rick Lavoie, an expert on learning disabled children. He gave an example of a friend of his who has a daughter with a learning disability. When Rick was at the man's house for dinner, the daughter said something inappropriate at the dinner table. After the girl had been sent to her room, he asked (I'm paraphrasing from a sketchy memory here), "If she were doing badly in a sport, would you punish her or coach her?" Rick Lavoie recommends a technique he calls a "social autopsy" as a teaching tool for children with social skills deficits.

Mind you, finding out the root of the problem, and teaching the necessary skills is "hard work", but for some "strong willed" children, it's the only sane, humane solution.

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Dogs don't moo=no to domestic partnerships. WTF?

Update: I have just been informed that "No moo lies" is a response to this.

Crossposted at Booman Tribune, My Left Wing, and Daily Kos

Please be kidding about this, Focus on the Family...

I found out about this at An Inch at a Time...

James Dobson's Colorado Springs-based ministry stands firmly against same-sex marriage, gay rights initiatives and, now, mooing puppies.
On Tuesday, Focus unveiled its new "straight" puppy Web site,, featuring a basset hound named Sherman, who barks as biology intended. During a news conference, a Focus employee dressed in a dog suit, who serves as a mascot at the group's visitors center, made a brief appearance.
"Dogs aren't born mooing, and people aren't born gay," a Focus news release stated.
Really, people--how does this *affect* you, such that you need to go to such, well, ludicrous lengths to oppose domenstic partnerships in Colorado. Frankly, I think it's just petty and mean.

But then again, I'm reminded of what Jesus said about homosexuality. Which Oh, that's right--he didn't say *anything* about it, did he? But I'm pretty sure I *do* remember him saying something about treating people the way you want to be treated.

In more positive, inclusive news, a bishop in Arkansas has indicated that he will allow blessings of same-sex unions in his diocese.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bush's first veto

I received this from the Christian Alliance for Progress today:

President Bush followed through with his threat to veto the stem cell bill that Congress sent to him on Tuesday. In the first such veto of his career as an executive at any level of government, his use of that authority will result in the early deaths and unnecessary suffering of millions of Americans. It is one of the most stunning, irrational decisions of an administration with a reputation for such and the most telling piece of evidence yet that America is under the sway of theocrats whose obsession for ideological purity outweighs their concern for America's, and the world's, sick and dying.

The most illogical aspect of this debate is that the embryos which were to be used had the legislation passed will be thrown away! The twisted moral framework that would allow the embryos to be discarded rather than used to heal and save lives goes hand in glove with the pseudoscience that has become the hallmark of the Religious Right, to which this administration gives its highest loyalty.

How long will Christians in this country stand for such outrages?
Learn more about how to get involved in the Christian Alliance for Progress here.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Catching up

Over at Street Prophets, Pastor Dan somewhat apologetically posted Progressive Faith Blog Convention, Again--starting the post with Okay, I'm going to stop talking about this soon. Real soon.

No rush--I still haven't managed to *read* anything about it. We got back from a trip to visit family in Chicago late Sunday night--it was in the 90s and we were in a car with two dogs, one cockatoo, and two kids. And then the car died. It turned out *this* time that all we needed was a jump start, which we eventually got from a state trooper.

Something very similar happened last June, except that *that* time, we weren't able to get the car going again and had to borrow a car from my mom and dad to get home. On the other hand, we only had one dog with us at the time, and I don't think the weather had been quite as beastly hot. I took this guy

out on a leash to give him some water, and several people stopped to help us. Lassie in distress! We must help! What is it, girl? (Boy, actually, in this case. And in the Lassie movies, come to think of it...).

Well, this time, thinking the same thing was worth a try--Demetrius already was pulled over to the side of the road, had the hood up, and was holding the jumper cables out the window to show that we had that necessary piece already. I stepped out to give Brady and Winnie

some water. This time, it didn't work. Eventually, after calling my parents and asking them to look it up, we discovered that we *were* supposed to call 911 (didn't want to do that unneccessarily) to contact roadside assistance, and a state trooper came to give us a jump start. In order to avoid any extra strain on the battery, we didn't turn the CD player on for the rest of the trip. Or the TV we had brought. Or the fan.

While I'm whining about things--I couldn't connect to the internet on my Sidekick anywhere in Indiana.

So it ended up being a blessing that the temp project I was supposed to start was postponed a day, because I really needed a day to recover from all that.

Bottom line, though, is that I haven't even *started* to read about the Progressive Faith Blog Convention yet.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

The strange history of the religious left blog

It was about a year ago that something aggravating happened to all of the blogs I had hosted at Blogspot. I was able to get them all restored, except that the url I'd been using for The Religious Left had been grabbed by someone who wanted to "expose" the lies and hypocrisy of the religious left or some such. He (I think it was a "he") did all of one post, and his "credentials", as I recall, were that he had attended a "gay-friendly" Episcopal church for a number of years. The blogger did not allow comments, but put out a call for contributors.

Apparently, there were no takers, and, like a little kid who stole someone else's toy, not because he or she really wanted it, but just for "something to do", the guy lost interest and closed the blog. Yet, the person at Blogger who responded to me explained that I couldn't have the url back, because it was now registered to another user, even though said user apparently had no use for it. So my recovered posts were moved to

While I was still waiting for a response from Blogger (and while the imposter Religious Left blog was still online), I had already set up my own alternate url--in addition to contacting all of the people who thought they were linking to *my* blog. Given the situation at the time, seemed like a good choice, but now it seems kind of odd.

Today I tried again, but the religiousleft name at blogger is still taken, even though you still get an error message if you go to that url. Recently I've been trying out Wordpress, which has a function allowing you to import posts from another blog. Here is a link to The Religious Left at Wordpress. It doesn't have a blogroll, or any visual appeal at all at the moment, but it does have all of the posts from both incarnations of my blog. The posts from the original blog (October 2005 and earlier) have long numbers instead of titles. I don't know if I'll eventually want to migrate over to Wordpress, but at the moment, that blog seems to have "fixer-upper" written all over it.

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Voices of Witness (Part 5)

A little more of the Claiming the Blessing Voices of Witness video
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Jane: We are changed by people who are out. We have been changed for the past couple of generations by gay and lesbian people who have proudly, persistently, simply lovingly been out and been who they are, with us in our church family, the same way that *my* son is out and with us as who he is in our family. It changed my heart when he came out.

Wilma: I would be one of those people who could tell the journey of having changed, in my opinion, and having watched others change. Even like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I watched him change over the years. And listening to what he said toward the end of his episcopate, making a lot of people fairly unhappy.

Susan: Those of us who support the actions of our General Convention, who advocate for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people into all orders of ministry, and for equity between same-gender partnerships and heterosexual marriage, do so out of our deep conviction that these actions are our response to the Gospel as we receive it.

Vicky: The very basis of my own ministry and understanding is respecting the dignity of every human being, which comes from the baptismal covenant. And that's what we're called to do. And when we make judgements--I'd like God to be allowed to be God, rather than all of us second-guessing God. "Guided into the kingdom of God"--what does that mean? Does it mean that you're uncomfortable and unhappy if certain people are invited in? I don't believe so. I think that God invites all of us into relationship, and that ultimately the Christian journey and the Christian faith is about relationship.

Ravi: My own journey of faith has taught me that my relationship with God can't be in isolation--it has to be in community. That the "me and God" or "me and Jesus" religion is not what scripture says. So I honor what scripture says in that. And that it's only in community that I can really live out my faith journey.

Jim: By the time I came back to the church, I had been with my partner, Donald for 6 or 7 years, I think. Shortly after that, Donald became sick, and 12 days later he died. It's incredible to me that, in that period shortly before Donald's death, that somehow we were led to find this faith community that we became a part of, just in time for his death. So in some way, God brought us to that place, I think, where we were there and prepared for that. Staff, clergy, and really the people of that parish lifted me up and carried me through those dark days of grief. While he was in the hospital, so sick and dying, and of course afterwards, to support me through all of that.

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Progressive Faith Blogger Convention

The Progressive Faith Blog Con has come and gone. You can read about it here.

I look forward to reading more about it once I recover from my own travels this weekend.

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War and Peace in the Middle East (from Tikkun)

Received via e-mail from our local group, Faith Communities Uniting for Peace...

The people of the Middle East are suffering again as militarists on all sides, and cheerleading journalists, send forth missiles, bombs and endless words of self-justification for yet another pointless round of violence between Israel and her neighbors. For those of us who care deeply about human suffering, this most recent episode in irrationality evokes tears of sadness, incredulity at the lack of empathy on all sides, anger at how little anyone seems to have learned from the past, and moments of despair as we once again see the religious and democratic ideals subordinated to the cynical realism of militarism. Meanwhile, the partisans on each side, content to ignore the humanity of “the Other,” rush to assure their constituencies that the enemy is always to blame. Each such effort is pointless. We have a struggle that has been going on for over a hundred years. Who tosses the latest match into the tinder box matters little. What matters is how to repair the situation. The blame game only succeeds in diverting attention from that central issue. Within the context of blame, there’s enough to go around. It all depends on where you start the story.
More here. Similar sentiments are very well expressed in the Kos diary by poemless, I don't care why.

There is a neighborhood in Chicago called Rogers Park. Walk down streets like Devon Avenue and you won't hear any English spoken. You will hear Russian, Urdu, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic... You'll see mosques and temples and churches. It is the most vibrant neighborhood in the city, and Jews live next door to Palestinians who live across the street from Pakistanis whose children play with Hindus. These are not well-off, highly educated, totally assimilated people. They are mostly just off the proverbial boat. But they seem to realize they are all in it together. People from all over come to study this neighborhood because it defies all the laws of the universe. People. Getting along.


We've all been wronged.

We've all had loved ones ripped from our lives.

We'd all like to live wherever we want to.

We all want to live without worrying about being bombed.

We all have a loved one who has endured genocide, racism or oppression.

We all believe we are right.

Those of us who believe that our being right gives us permission to sacrifice another person's child are evil.

End of story. Don't care where you live, where you worship, what happened to your people a 100 years ago. I Don't Care. I don't have any interest in your grievances.

We all have choices in life. We can educate, or promote ignorance. Reach out, or build walls. Live together or annihilate. Accept humility or prove our might. Be decent or be ugly.

~Anyone who tells you they have no choice but to drop a bomb is lying to you.

~Anyone who tells you god wants them to have your home is lying to you.

~Anyone who tells you they are incapable of living with someone of a certain race or religion is lying to you.

~Anyone who tells you that the only path to peace is war is lying to you.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006


Here are the segments of the Katharine Jefferts Schori NPR interview that I transcribed:
Katharine Jefferts Schori discusses faith in action
KJS+ addresses the biblical prohibitions on same-sex relationships
KJS+ hopes to recover "an Anglican way of living with diversity"
More excerpts from Katharine Jefferts Schori's NPR interview
KJS+ on the role of women in the church
KJS+ on the elevation of Bishop Gene Robinson
KJS+ on inclusiveness and diversity
Katharine Jefferts Shori responds to a caller on NPR

Here are links to the transcription I've done of +KJS on Oregon Public Broadcasting:
Katharine Jefferts Schori on OPB's Oregon Territory
Katharine Jefferts Schori on the roots of the church
More from the Oregon Public Broadcasting interview
On moratorium and marriage

And finally, here are the parts of the Claiming the Blessing Voices of Witness video that I've transcribed so far:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

The sermons by Bishop Robinson and Bishop Curry can be found in the sidebar on the right side of the page. And here are some links to older posts that were written before my recent focus on the General Convention.

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Although this particular blog started only a year ago (long story), I first went online with a religious left blog about three years ago. Here's a link to the "About this site" page if you're interested in how this site first came about.

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Presiding Bishop Griswold's Word to the Church

Thank you Susan at An Inch at a Time for pointing out the latest from the current Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold

On the "two-tier communion concept:" I note here that a two-tier solution to our present strains raises serious questions about how we understand ourselves as being the church. I am put in mind of Paul's understanding of the church as the body of Christ of which we are all indispensable members in virtue of our baptism. I think as well of Jesus' declaration in the Gospel of John that he is the vine and we are the branches and that apart from him we can do nothing. Such a two-tiered view of our common life suggests to me amputated limbs and severed branches without any life-giving relationship to the One who is the source of all life. A pragmatic solution in this regard is at the expense of the deeper truth that the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you.

More here.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Diocese of Southern Ohio announces nominees

I received this via e-mail this morning.

During the 129th Diocesan Convention, Bishop Herbert Thompson Jr. called for the election of the Ninth Bishop of Southern Ohio. Because of the Covenant Statement released by the House of Bishops in mid-March, 2005, the Diocese of Southern Ohio re-scheduled its electing convention to Nov. 11, 2006. Consecration is slated for April 2007. Click here to read more about the Covenant Statement. Bishop Thompson retired at the end of 2005. Bishop Kenneth L. Price is the ecclesiastical authority for the diocese.
I haven't yet had the chance to read about these nominees for Presiding Bishop in my diocese, but here are the links for anyone who is interested in learning more.

Nominees for the Ninth Bishop of Southern Ohio
Read the nominees' answers to experience questions posed by the Nominating Committee (PDF)
Read the nominees' answers to questions about the wider church posed by the Standing Committee (PDF)

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Riverbend's latest

For anyone who doesn't know this, Riverbend is a woman who lives in Iraq and posts from time to time about the living situation there.

It promises to be a long summer. We're almost at the mid-way point, but it feels like the days are just crawling by. It's a combination of the heat, the flies, the hours upon hours of no electricity and the corpses which keep appearing everywhere.

The day before yesterday was catastrophic. The day began with news of the killings in Jihad Quarter. According to people who live there, black-clad militiamen drove in mid-morning and opened fire on people in the streets and even in houses. They began pulling people off the street and checking their ID cards to see if they had Sunni names or Shia names and then the Sunnis were driven away and killed. Some were executed right there in the area. The media is playing it down and claiming 37 dead but the people in the area say the number is nearer 60.

Click for the rest. It's not pretty, which I suppose is why we don't hear about these things in the news much.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pastor Dan interviews Barack Obama

From Street Prophets...

Over the past couple of months, I've been in touch with Barack Obama's shop off and on. Two or three weeks ago, they asked if I would be interested in interviewing the Senator as he rolled out some new initiatives on faith and politics. I knew our interview would be timed to coincide with his speech at the Call To Renewal convention (video coverage here), but I didn't know the content of that speech until I received the text via a
Network of Spiritual Progressives e-mail. Unfortunately, we weren't able to connect the day after his speech, but last Friday, I spent about half an hour talking to the Senator.

Read the rest here.

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This and that

I've gotten caught up in posting about other things today, mostly the Joe Lieberman, but I wanted to swing by this blog and post a couple links before heading out on some errands with Daughter in Ohio.

Some posts/diaries to check out.

C of E Takes First Step Towards Women Bishops
Setback for Marriage Justice
Dominionism in Action
The Bible and Authority
Poverty is a moral issue

We haven't had a chance to update our main Cafe Press store accordingly, but I wanted to mention that since variations of this

seem to be what people have been the most interested in, we set up a store with just that design on different products.

Finally, although I haven't had a chance to post about it yet, I wanted to point out the button/banner on the right side of the page here--the one advertising the Progressive Faith Blog Con. Unfortunately, I'm not able to attend myself, but it sounds great and I look forward to reading more about it.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

This blog isn't ALL Anglican Communion all the time

I've just figured out, from the comment to the post below, as well as some other clues, that some people are coming to this blog for the first time after seeing the CBS segment on the religious left. It occurs to me that one would have to dig pretty deep to find much here that *isn't* about the Episcopal church, the Anglican Communion, or General Convention. I just wanted to say that that's not normally the case, but General Convention only happens every three years, and it actually came to the *city where I live* not long after I was officially received into the church. How often does *that* happen?

But anyway, I figured this might be a good time to link to some older, somewhat more general "religious left" sorts of posts.

Sacred Space
Fred Rogers testifying in Senate hearings, 1969
Remembering Rev. William Sloane Coffin
Launch of We Believe! Ohio
Turning the world upside-down
Vengeance is Mine--you can't play with it any more!
On "turning the other cheek", etc.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
What Bill Coffin would have said to Bush
Jim Wallis on "The War on Christians"
God, the blue puppy
Pat Robertson's mean, scary god
Taking the Lord's name in vain
Being on a "mission from God"
The labyrinth: walking a sacred path

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CBS covers the "religious left"

In response to Oscar's post Living the Testimony (when time permits, Oscar posts a Word for the Week at Howard-Empowered People) Sharon posted

Just saw the report about the religious left on tonight's CBS evening news. It struck home. It was as if they were speaking what is in my heart.

Thank you, Sharon, for mentioning that, because I would have missed it otherwise. Here's the link to the CBS story online:

Religion Taking A Left Turn?

You can watch the segment on video at the link above. I was going to post a screen capture from that video, but do you really want to see another picture of Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, or Bob Edgar? Well, if you *do* want that, you can click the link above. I'm going to post a picture of the birthday panda. 'Cause he makes me smile.

Of course, SusanD did a much better job of putting the "panda therapy" phenomenon into words here.

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On moratorium and marriage

From Katharine Jefferts Schori's interview on Oregon Public Broadcasting

Christy George: At the same convention, a majority voted to apologize for Gene Robinson, but not to take back his ordaination.

Katharine Jefferts Schori They agreed to apologize for the upset that it's caused in the rest of the Communion.

Christy George So, "We're sorry you're upset with the thing that we did..."?

Katharine Jefferts Schori Well, yes. And we're sorry if we did not adequately consult with the rest of the Communion. That's really the sense of what the people were trying to express. But you're correct in saying that there is no desire to retreat from his consecration.

Christy George Yet you also agreed to a moratorium going forward on gay bishops for the moment. And when I say "you", I mean you, a majority.

Katharine Jefferts Schori That's not the language that was used. That last resolution asked standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction, the people who vote on consenting to elections of bishops, to withhold consent to anyone whose manner of life would present a challenge to the wider Communion at this point in our history. It's not formally a moratorium, some people understand that it leaves the door open--I think it allows us to proceed to the next stage of the conversation.

Christy George Interesting, because there are other potential challenges other than having someone be gay.

Katharine Jefferts Schori Always! You know, human beings don't see the world identically, we always differ on *something*, but I think our task at this point in history is to discover what we hold in common.

Christy George It's quite interesting, I heard Bill Bennett, the conservative culture czar--who you may have seen roaming around the casinos of Las Vegas recently, who knows! (Laughter) He said on television not long ago that he realizes, he acknowledges that the fight over gay marriage is over, effectively in America. It's just a matter of time before--he doesn't agree with that, but he says "We, meaning the conservatives, have lost the battle."

Katharine Jefferts Schori Well, you know the reality of our understanding of marriage has changed enormously over the centuries. In the middle ages, even in church circles, it was understood as a property contract. You know, in an era when women were seen as property and they were handed from father to groom. That's where the "giving this woman" comes from in the marriage ceremony, when it's used.

We live in a culture and a time where we understand that human beings give themselves freely to another, and that parents don't do that giving. We understand that people are free to enter into an agreement to live together in a way that, in the church, is an expression of the holy. And for the state to meddle in that seems inappropriate. There's a significant move in the church right now to take clergy out of the role of signing the marriage certificate on behalf of the state. And I think we might be healthier if we went that route.

Christy George To really separate civil and religious marriage.

Katharine Jefferts Schori Correct--as happens in many other regions of the world.

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More from the Oregon Public Broadcasting interview

Christy George mentioned the issue of gay marriage and having an openly gay bishop as driving the current conflict in the Anglican Communion, and asked, "Is this the big bottom line issue for people?"

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think it's the presenting issue. I don't think it's the real source of conflict. There have been gay clergy and gay bishops in the church forever. Gene Robinson's the first bishop who has been open about that before his election. I think the real root difference is that different parts of the church are interested in maintaining a particular strand of Christian identity, perhaps to the exclusion of some of the other strands. And one of the gifts of Anglicanism over the centuries has been an ability to live with difference, to comprehend a variety of understandings of how to live in the church and in the world. And if we exclude the other parts of those--those other strands--we become diminished.

And the urgency right now I think is about people's sense that their particular strand of identity will be lost, both from the African church and the conservative end of the church in this country, and the most liberal end of the church in this country. It's a struggle for identity, it's a struggle to discover where authority lies when we do differ in our approaches to questions. The Anglican Communion is kind of a hodgepodge of bodies that have grown out of British colonial history, and missionary work, both from the Church of England and from the United States church over the centuries, and we have very different identities because we exist in different contexts.

Christy asked if the church is as divided as the United States on some of the same social issues.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: The studies that have been done, and we've got a great statistical researcher at the church office in New York, the studies show that there is maybe 10 or 15% on either end of the spectrum who are pretty entrenched. But there's this great, broad, middle segment of the church, 70% of the church at least, that is perfectly willing to live with a diversity of understandings, and a diversity of practice. And they are beginning to express their will, I think' That's a much more Anglican way of being, than living on one of the ends of the spectrum.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Katharine Jefferts Schori on the roots of the church

More from the interview Presiding Bishop Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori did on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Christy George: ...Even here in the U.S., a few diocese still won't ordain women, and one of them, the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, has already asked the Archbishop of Canterbury for a different boss than you. What's going on there?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, change happens slowly. The church as a whole has probably forgotten its early history. There were clearly women in leadership positions in the ordained orders in the early church, but by the third or fourth century, that was suppressed. There are three or four dioceses in the United States that don't believe in the ordaination of women. Or, it would be more accurate to say their bishops don't--there are clearly laypeople and clergy in all three of those dioceses that disagree with those positions.

And the Church of England is continuing to debate whether or not they can ordain women to the episcopate, and their next conversation about that begins in July.

Christy George: And they are moving a little bit toward that, is that true?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: They are, especially in the Church of England.

Christy George: The Church of England itself was formed out of a split with the Catholic church. Do you think Episcopalians have some hard wiring for conflict?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: The Church of England did have some divergence from Rome, but its roots really go back to the beginnings of Christianity in the British Isles in the second century. Maybe the first century. So it's a long cultural history, and ecclesiastical history. The church in the United States separated after the Revolutionary War when clergy here, who had come from the Church of England could no longer swear loyalty to the monarch in England. And at that point the Church of England had to figure out some way of regognizing our validity.

We didn't get our bishops from England--the people who had been elected as first bishops in this church had to go to Scotland in order to be consecrated bishop. And we've improved our ties in the years since.

Christy George: So Americans are a little hardwired for conflict too.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, we were born out of revolution.

Christy George: Exactly!

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Walk humbly

Oh, and as I mentioned yesterday, we did set up an e-mail address for bumper sticker/graphics requests. It's graphics (at)

Here's the link to my transcript of part of the interview Katharine Jefferts Schori did yesterday for Oregon Public Radio. I plan to post more of it later this weekend. If you're looking for the parts of the Diane Rehm show I transcribed, you can find them here.

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Katharine Jefferts Schori on OPB's Oregon Territory

Just found out about another radio interview Katharine Jefferts Schori did. It's shorter, and covers some different ground. This is from the second half...

Christy George: You came to religion as a scientist--you came to your calling in the church as a scientist. What do you think are the underlying issues feeding things like the fight over evolution?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I think part of it is a shift in cultural, moral views. Do we live in an Enlightenment world view, or do we live out of a postmodern understanding. Are we willing to live with a variety of faces of truth, or do we insist that there is only one possible understanding of truth and that any human being can possess that understanding.

Christy George: When you were at Oregon State University, and you worked with squid and octopusses, what was your research? What were you doing?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: I worked on systematics, which was describing species, and zoogeography, which describes where they live, in the whole northeastern Pacific. Sort of from southern California north to Alaska, and west of the Hawaiian islands, some distance out into the Aleutians. I looked at evolutionary theory for one particular family of squids, and I worked on a variety of fisheries problems.

Christy George: I've read that you said that your work gave you a taste of life on the margins. Because of the creatures, or because of your role in science?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, I think you could probably see both of those in there. I was a woman--one of few. The first year I started graduate school was I think the first year that women could go to sea overnight on the vessels there. The first time I was chief scientist on a research cruise, the captain wouldn't talk to me because I was a woman. And I worked in an area that is on the margins of human experience. How many of us get to go stick our heads under the water, even near shore and how many of us get to see the strange and wonderful creatures that live a thousand meters down in the north Pacific.

Christy George: And what did you take of that experience to religion, and again, both parts of it, the scientific explorations and wonders that saw, but also the difficulty of being a woman blazing a trail in science?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, the part about how I fit as a woman is almost nonconsequential. I've lived my whole adult life in environments like that, and it's unfortunately almost normal. There are beginning to be more and more women in ordained leadership, including as bishops, but we still have a long way to go to find parity.

The other half of that...I think I have brought a sense of delight in the diversity and wonders of creation. I think I've brought a willingness to look carefully at what's out there, and to come to situations without prejudging them. To come willing to learn from what I discover.

Christy George: And what led to your decision to seek ordaination when you were at OSU?

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Well, there came a time in the mid-80s when the federal research priorities changed, and it became clear that if I wanted to continue as an oceanographer, it wasn't going to be as a going-to-sea scientist, it was going to be writing grants. And that part of it did not really appeal to me. I love the lab work and going to sea, and pushing paper was not my favorite activity.

And at the same time, three people at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Corvalis, which was my congregation, asked me if I'd ever thought about being a priest. And it was an odd and strange enough encounter that I spent some significant time in discernment with the priest there, and we came to the conclusion that at the very least the time wasn't right, so I went off and did other things in the community for about five years.

And right before the first war in the Gulf, another priest in that congregation asked me to preach on Sunday morning. And that experience and the response I heard afterward finally let me say yes, and I was in seminary the next fall.

Christy George mentioned that all religions in Oregon are dwarfed by the number of people who say they have no religion, and asked if Katharine remembered enountering people like that when she lived in Oregon.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Oh, absolutely! The whole northwest is like that, and Nevada shares in that, especially the northern parts of Nevada. Southeastern Nevada's got a significant Mormon presence because of its proximity to Utah. That's part of our culture out here--the great wide spaces around us, the beauty of the physical environment in which we live, I think invites people to see the holy in their surroundings. And the gifts of the faith community have to do with seeing the holy in other human beings, and I think that's the part that people might miss if they're worshiping in the cathedral of the forest.

Christy George asks about a way to connect with people on issues of science and the environment in thechurch at a time of climate change and other serious environmental challenges.

Katharine Jefferts Schori: Absolutely. One of the strengths of the tradition from which I come is its willingness to engage issues that have to do with human life. We understand the most important parts of our faith is having to do with the Incarnation--God became human--and therefore all of human experience is fodder, or is a possible vehicle for understanding the Divine. We have to put our historical and theological and intellectual gifts to work in examining the issues in the current world. Environmental issue are major. We need not to sit in our sanctuaries and ignore what's going on in the world around us. And I think that's been one of the eternal struggles of all religions: are we going to focus inward, or are we going to focus outward on the needs of the world around us? And especially in this day and age, we need to be looking outward.

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